There will be a first-time champion in the Premier Development League this season when Calgary Foothills FC tangles with Reading United on Saturday night at 7 p.m. inside of Gurski Stadium in West Lawn, Pennsylvania.
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Calgary is looking to clinch just the fourth PDL title for a Canadian team, with manager Tommy Wheeldon Jr. carrying the torch for Calgary soccer. The England-born Wheeldon Jr. played for the Calgary Storm in the PDL from 2002-04, and will be the manager of Cavalry FC when the Canadian Premier League begins its run next season.
“We were finalists in 2016, and it was a good one because it was unexpected,” Wheeldon Jr. told ProSoccerTalk. “This year we improved our squad. We try to create a culture of excellence at Calgary Foothills. We’ve always been forward thinking and want to push our boundaries. It’s a 74-team league and watching videos of other conference, there’s a lot of quality out there.”
To win the playoff title, Calgary will have to travel nearly 2,300 miles.
It will meet one of the most successful clubs in league history when it comes to producing professionals. Reading United boast C.J. Sapong and Matt Hedges amongst its alumni, and have four of the Top 40 rated pro prospects in the 74-team league.
Head coach Alan McCann, 28, has had a wildly successful first year in leading Reading to its first final. He’s had help.
“It’s a group of returners that we’ve had for two years who have come back in and taken on responsibility and leadership,” McCann said. “They’ve helped us bring the new players in and buy into the mentality. It’s a ‘Never say die’ team. In our regular season finale, we were 2-0 down around the 80th minute and we got the winner in the 90th minute. It was big for us.”
How they got here
Reading United — Beat Myrtle Beach Mutiny in Eastern Conference semis, then New York Red Bulls U-23 in the conference finals. Won national semifinal against The Villages SC.
Calgary Foothills — Defeated Colorado Rapids U-23 in the Western Conference semis, then FC Tucson. Topped Chicago FC United in national semifinal.
Who To Watch
Reading United — Aaron Molloy (Penn State) has four assists in the playoffs and is the No. 1 ranked professional prospect in the PDL as determined by their rankings. Khori Bennett (Northeastern) has six goals in the postseason.
Calgary Foothills — Ali Musse has three goals on 12 shots in three playoff games, and goalkeeper Marco Carducci is yet to allow a goal in the postseason.